William Jackson (secretary)

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Founding Fathers
William Jackson.jpg
William Jackson (secretary)
State Pennsylvania
Religion N/A
Founding Documents United States Constitution

William Jackson (March 9, 1759 – December 7, 1828) was the secretary of the Federal Constitutional Convention, and thus a signer of the United States Constitution. Although he lacked the delegates' right of debate, he nonetheless played an important role, and was a vocal supporter of a strong federal government.

Early life

Jackson was born in the county of Cumberland in northern England. His childhood was marred by tragedy; both of Jackson's parents died when he was young, and he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to be reared by Owen Roberts, a prominent merchant and family friend. A veteran of the French and Indian War, Roberts was a strong influence on his ward, inspiring him to become a citizen-soldier and fight for the cause of patriotism and independence. When South Carolina began to raise a militia to defend the colony from the British, Jackson—still a very young man—joined the 1st South Carolina Regiment.[1]

Military Service

William Jackson rose quickly through the ranks, receiving a commission as a second lieutenant in May 1776. He first saw action near Charleston, where his unit helped successfully defend Fort Sullivan against a force led by General Sir Henry Clinton. In 1778, Jackson's unit was part of an unsuccessful attempt to take the British colony of East Florida under the command of Robert Howe; as a result of the debacle, Howe was replaced by Major General Major General Benjamin Lincoln. At the urging of Charles C. Pinckney, Lincoln appointed Jackson as his aide.In this role, he fought in the Battle of Stono Ferry and the siege of Savannah in 1779. Jackson was also present at the siege of Charleston in 1780, where Major General Lincoln was forced to surrender his troops. Jackson was among those captured, and was held until November of that year, when he and other captured officers were released as part of a prisoner exchange.[1]

Constitutional Convention

Following his retirement from active military service, Jackson settled down in Philadelphia to study law. However, he still held to the ideals of his guardian, and desired to serve the cause of independence. When the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia in 1787, he applied for a position as the convention's secretary and was accepted. As secretary, Jackson was sworn to secrecy concerning the deliberations; following the signing of the Constitution, he destroyed all records except for the official journal.

Later Political Service

Following the war, Jackson was selected by President George Washington to be his secretary, a position in which he served capably until December 1791. After a period of several years during which he pursued private business concerns, Jackson was appointed surveyor of customs for the port of Philadelphia in 1796. He held this position until 1801, when he was dismissed by President Thomas Jefferson. Jackson returned to private life, continuing to practice law and serving for a time as editor of the Political and Commercial Register, a pro-Federalist newspaper.


William Jackson died on December 17, 1828, in Philadelphia. He was interred at Christ Church Cemetery.


  1. 1.0 1.1 William Jackson, Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution